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Annan, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

ANNAN, royal burgh, and a parish, in the county of DUMFRIES, 15 miles (E. S. E.) from Dumfries, and 79 (S.) from Edinburgh; containing, with part of Brydekirk quoad sacra district, 5471 inhabitants, of whom 4409 are in the burgh. This place, which is of remote antiquity, and supposed to have been a Roman station of some importance, was, after the departure of the Romans from Britain, occupied by the ancient inhabitants till their expulsion by the Northumbrian Saxons. After the dissolution of the Saxon heptarchy, the surrounding territories were annexed to the kingdom of Scotland, in the reign of Malcolm Canmore; and the lands were subsequently granted to Robert de Bruce, Lord of Annandale, who built a castle for the defence of the town, in which he occasionally resided. From its proximity to the English border, the town was frequently plundered during the Border warfare, and sometimes burnt; and it suffered greatly in the wars consequent on the disputed succession to the Scottish throne, in the reign of Edward I. of England. In 1298 the town and church were burnt by the English, but they were subsequently restored by Robert Bruce, who in 1306 ascended the throne of Scotland; and in 1332, Edward Baliol, after his coronation at Scone, repaired to the castle of Annan, whither he summoned the nobility of Scotland to pay him homage. During his continuance here, Archibald Douglas, the firm adherent of the Bruces, having collected a force of 1000 cavalry at Moffat, advanced to Annan during the night, and surprised and defeated his guards. Baliol was then induced to make his escape from the castle, and, hastily mounting a horse with neither saddle nor bridle, with considerable difficulty reached Carlisle, without a single attendant.

In 1547, the town was plundered and burnt by the English under Wharton, accompanied by the Earl of Lennox; on which occasion, as the castle was at that time dismantled, the inhabitants fortified the church, and for some time successfully resisted the invaders. In the two following years, the town and the surrounding district were continually infested by the predatory incursions of the English borderers, against whose attacks the governor, Maxwell, levied a tax of £4000 for repairing the castle, and placing it in a state of defence. During the regency of Mary of Guise, on the arrival of a large body of French soldiers in the river Clyde, the greater number of them were stationed in this town, for the protection of the neighbourhood; and in 1570 the castle was again destroyed by the English forces, under the Earl of Sussex. It was afterwards restored, and continued to be kept up as a border fortress, till the union of the two crowns by the accession of James VI. At this time, the town was reduced to such a state of destitution that the inhabitants, unable to build a church, obtained from that monarch a grant of the castle for a place of public worship; and during the wars in the reign of Charles I. The town suffered so severely that, by way of compensation, the parliament, after the restoration of Charles II., granted to the corporation the privilege of collecting customs and other duties for their relief. The Highland army, on their retreat before the Duke of Cumberland, in the rebellion of 1745, encamped here on the night of the 28th of December, after having lost great numbers of their men, who were drowned while attempting to cross the rivers Esk and Eden.

The TOWN is pleasantly situated on the eastern bank of the river Annan, two miles from its influx into Solway Firth. It consists of several spacious and regularly-formed streets, intersecting each other at right angles; and is connected with the country on the opposite bank of the river, by an elegant stone bridge of three arches of sixty-five feet span, erected in 1824, at an expense of £8000. From the beauty of the scenery in the environs, and the facilities of sea-bathing afforded by the Firth, Annan is a favourite place of residence. The houses are well built, and of handsome appearance, and in the immediate vicinity are numerous villas and mansions; the streets are paved and lighted, and the inhabitants amply supplied with good water. A public library is supported by subscription. The spinning of cotton-yarn, which was introduced here in 1785, is still carried on, and affords employment to about 140 persons; the factory, in which the most improved machinery is eraployed, has been enlarged, and the quantity of yarn produced averages 4000 pounds per week. The usual handicraft trades requisite for the supply of the neighbourhood are pursued; and there are numerous shops, amply stocked with various kinds of merchandise. A market is held on Thursday; and fairs, chiefly for hiring servants, are held annually on the first Thursdays in May and August, and the third Thursday in October. Facilities of inland communication are afforded by good roads, of which the turnpike-road from Dumfries to Carlisle passes through the town, and by cross-roads connected with the roads to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Great facility of intercourse is also presented by the Glasgow, Dumfries, and Carlisle railway, which here crosses the river Annan, and has a station.

The trade of the port partly consists in the importation of timber, deals, lath-wood, and tar, from America and the Baltic, in which two vessels are employed; and about thirty vessels are engaged in the coasting-trade. The exports are chiefly grain for the Glasgow and Liverpool markets, and timber and freestone for various English ports. By the steamers that frequent the port, grain, wool, live stock, bacon, and hams, are sent to Liverpool and the adjacent towns of Lancashire, from which they bring manufactured goods; and the other imports are mostly coal, slates, salt, herrings, grain, and iron, from Glasgow and places on the English and Irish coasts. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port, is thirty-four, of the aggregate burthen of 1639 tons. The port, which is under the custom-house of Dumfries, and is formed by an inlet from the river, has been much improved by the embankment of Hall meadow, on the Newby estate, by the proprietor, John Irving, Esq., at a cost of £3000, which has rendered the channel of sufficient depth for the safe anchorage of vessels of considerable burthen. Two piers have been erected by the proprietors of the steamers frequenting the port, to which a road has been formed from the burgh, by subscription, at a cost of £640; and a commodious inn with good stabling has been built near the jetties, within the embankment.

The ancient records of the burgh having been destroyed during the frequent devastations of the town, a charter confirming all previous privileges, and reciting a charter of James V. in 1538, by which it had been erected into a royal burgh, was granted by James VI. in the year 1612. Under this the government of the town is in the control of a provost, two bailies, and a number of councillors. There are no incorporated guilds, neither have the burgesses any exclusive privileges in trade; the magistrates issue tickets of admission to the freedom of a burgess, without any fee. Courts are held both for civil and criminal cases; but in neither do the magistrates exercise jurisdiction to any considerable extent. The burgh is associated with Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Lochmaben, and Sanquhar, in returning a member to the imperial parliament: the number of the constituency, parliamentary or municipal, is about 170. A new prison or lock-up house, containing three cells, was erected some years ago in lieu of the old prison, which is dilapidated.

The PARISH is about eight miles in extreme length, and varies from two and a half to four miles in breadth, comprising an area of 11,100 acres, of which about 1000 are woodland and plantations, and the remainder arable, meadow, and pasture. The surface is generally level, with a slight inclination towards the south, and is intersected by three nearly parallel ridges of moderate height. Of these, the western ridge terminates in a conical hill called Woodcock-air, which has an elevation of 320 feet, and is completely covered with wood; and on the coast are the Annan and Barnkirk hills, the former of which has an elevation of 256, and the latter of 120 feet above the sea. On the banks of the river, the soil is a rich alluvial deposit; to the west, a clayey loam, alternated with gravel; towards the east, a poor though deep loam; and in the northern districts, mostly light, with tracts of moor and moss. The chief crops are grain of all kinds, and the most improved system of husbandry is generally in use; the farm-buildings are substantial and well arranged. A large open common, of nearly 2000 acres, has been divided among the burgesses, and is now inclosed and cultivated. The pastures are rich: the cattle are of the Galloway breed, with a few of the Ayrshire and short-horned; there are few sheep reared, but by most of the farmers a considerable number of pigs are fed. Salmon, grilse, and trout are found in the Annan, and in the Firth; and in the former are three fisheries, one the property of the burgh: the fish taken are, sparling, cod, haddock, sturgeon, turbot, soles, and skate. The annual value of real property in the parish is £13,297, including £5163 for the burgh. The principal substrata are, fine sandstone well adapted for building, limestone, and ironstone: several attempts have been made to discover coal, which are supposed to have failed only from the borings not having been made to a sufficient depth. Mount Annan, the seat of the late Lieut.-Gen. Dirom, is a handsome mansion, situated on an eminence on the eastern bank of the Annan, about two miles from the town, commanding a fine view of the Firth and the northern counties of England; the grounds are tastefully embellished, and the scenery is picturesque. Warmanbie, on the east bank of the Annan, about half a mile to the south of Mount Annan, is an elegant mansion, erected within the last few years, and surrounded with pleasure-grounds; and Northfield House, on the same river, three-quarters of a mile from Annan, is also a handsome mansion, lately enlarged.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Annan and synod of Dumfries: the minister's stipend is about £250, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patron, J. J. Hope Johnstone, Esq., of Annandale. The church, erected in 1790, is a handsome structure with a spire, and contains 1190 sittings. A second church, situated on the south of the town, a very handsome building affording accommodation to 950 persons, was erected at a cost of £1400, and opened in August 1842: the stipend of the minister is about £"0. There are also places of worship for Episcopalians, the United Presbyterian Synod, members of the Free Church, Independents, and Roman Catholics. The parochial school is attended by nearly 100 children; the master has a salary of £31. 16. 6., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £40 per annum. The Annan academy, a building containing commodious classrooms, was erected and endowed with the funds arising to the burgh from the division of the common land. It is under the direction of two masters, and is attended by 140 pupils. The masters have a salary of £54 each, and are obliged to employ an assistant teacher, who is paid from the fees; the fees amount to about £160, and are equally divided between the masters, after paying the assistant. A sum of £5 is annually given from the endowment, for prizes.

The only remains of the castle of Annan are, a small portion of one of the walls, incorporated in the townhall, and a stone built into a wall of a small house, with this inscription, " Robert de Brus, Comte de Carrick, et seiniour de Val de Annand, 1300". About two miles from the town, and to the north of the Carlisle road, was a rude monument to the memory of the Scots who fell in a battle with the English, in which the latter were defeated with great slaughter; among the English slain in the conflict were Sir Marmaduke Langdale, Sir Philip Musgrave, and Lord Howard, whose remains were interred in the churchyard of Dornock. Close to the spot is a well in which the Scots washed their swords after the battle, and which has since been called the "Sword Well." Near the site of the castle is an artificial mound, supposed to have been a spot for administering justice during the times of the Saxons; and further up the river is an elevated bank called Galabank, the place of execution. On Battle Hill was lately discovered a mineral spring of great strength, which has not yet been analysed. The celebrated Dr. Thomas Blacklock; Hugh Clapperton, the African traveller; and the late Rev. Edward Irving, minister of the Scottish church in Regent-square, London, were connected with this place. Dr. Blacklock, who was born at Annan in 1721, though early deprived of sight, was not deterred from prosecuting his studies for the Church, which he pursued for ten years at the university of Edinburgh. His acquirements in the Latin, Greek, and French languages were very considerable; his knowledge of the sciences intimate; and his attainments in poetry remarkable, considering his disadvantages.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis


Online maps of Annan are available from a number of sites:

CountyDumfries and Galloway
Postal districtDG12
Post TownAnnan